Disable shadows in 10.5 window screen captures

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If you do much work with screenshots—for some of us, it’s a daily ritual—there were some changes in the way OS X 10.5’s built-in screenshot tools work. Some of these changes, including some nice new features for region captures, were welcomed by all. Another change, though, wasn’t so universally praised: when you capture a window (Shift-Command-4, then Space Bar to get the camera icon; optionally add the Control key to capture to clipboard), you also now capture a large translucent shadow that surrounds the window.

For me, this is generally a good change, as here at Macworld, we usually try to show the window’s shadow. For other users, though, the shadow may be an unwelcome annoyance. There are two ways to work around the shadow capture, one on a shot-by-shot basis, and the other permanent.

If you’d just like to grab one screenshot without the shadow, you can use Terminal’s screencapture command. Launch Terminal, in Applications -> Utilities, and run the following command. (You’ll need to edit the /path/to/save... bit of the command to reflect the location where you’d like to save the image.)

screencapture -iwo /path/to/save/image/file/to/image_name.png

The above command will put the window camera icon on the screen (that’s the -iw, and the -o option disables shadows), and you can then move it to click on the window you’d like to capture—click the mouse, and the screenshot will be saved in the location you specify, without its usual shadow. Note that you do not need to be able to see the entire window to capture it; if you can see part of it, OS X will capture the entire window when you click.

If you’d like to permanently disable shadow capture, that’s relatively easy as well. In Terminal, enter this command:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture disable-shadow -bool true

To make the changes take effect, the safest solution is to logout and login again. If you’re brave, you can try just restarting the SystemUIServer process. In Terminal, type killall SystemUIServer, and you should see the items on the right side of your menu bar disappear then reappear.


After logging out and in (my preferred solution) or restarting SystemUIServer, window captures will no longer include the translucent shadow, as seen in the image at right.

If you’d like to get your shadows back again, the best way is to delete the newly-added preference, with this Terminal command:

defaults delete com.apple.screencapture disable-shadow

As before, you’ll have to logout and login, or restart SystemUIServer, to make the changes take effect. I personally leave the shadows enabled, given I often need them, and use the above screencapture command when I need to capture a shadow-free window shot.

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